Texelworks hypes up their upcoming May 2021 First-Person Shooter (FPS) experience. 41 Hours will take you through an immersive journey including time travel, portals, super-human abilities, and other puzzles. Let’s not forget the ‘realistic guns’ mentioned as well. The release of the first two chapters of their campaign on steam titled 41 Hours: Prologue give players a taste of what’s to come. And a lot is being offered, but is that necessarily a good thing? After my experience, I can say that fixing a few bugs upon user feedback won’t add much polish to this already mess of a title. There are clearly way too many motifs, mechanics, and themes going on here and nothing feels truly fleshed out or finished.
Full Disclosure: There are many FPS references here; I’m a big fan of the genre. Also, 41 Hours borrows a lot from other games.
Let The Countdown Begin…
You play as Ethan, an obsessive scientist that goes on a gun spree to track down and protect the love of his life, accompanied by Clara, a.k.a. Lea. She aids you with her psychic powers to teleport around, explode near enemies, and open worm holes to travel between places. It’s quite handy to have a partner to send out to take care of enemy swarms, though her actions are a little clunky. I did take damage staying in the open moving my cursor to the enemy swarm for her to destroy. While not much plot-wise is explained in the prologue, the game follows a 41 hour countdown, hence the title. But what are we counting down? Why 41? Could we have gotten another hint to draw some extra interest to actually purchase this title?
The gameplay is broken up by comic book cinematics. I normally have no issues with this, since cinemas will show a title’s age more than the gameplay usually. However, the illustrations feel so different from the 3D rendered world you play in. The color is more saturated and cartoonish, compared to the actual game itself. It’s like I’m in two different genres here. Also the dialogue is bland, and the story isn’t explained very well. I predict that the player will skip through these for the most part.
First Person(ality) Shooter
For a protagonist, Ethan seems rather clean and well put together. There’s no toughness to his appearance, nor seriousness in his voice. Maybe I’m biased since this title steers more towards the dramatic realm and I enjoy fast-paced games with one-liners and personality (Duke Nukem, Doom). Upon taking damage, and jumping over rocky terrain, Ethan’s grunts and groans sound weak and almost pathetic. It’s as if the developers wanted Ethan to be a bit relatable as a human, but I’m not sure if it works here. I’m fighting off tons of enemies; I want to feel more so like a badass rather than some average Joe.
Huge World, But Why?
The game has you travel through huge worlds to get to way points. I don’t understand why the maps are so vast. Health and ammo pickups are all near the roads and pathways, so are these extra acres of trees really necessary? And since waypoints highlight your objectives, there is no need to explore any of these copy and pasted forests. You already know where to go. I recently played Ion Fury. It was built on the 20+ year old Build engine. There are secrets to find and cracked walls to blow up, circling the player back to previous areas without causing any backtracking. Exploring immersive environments should reward your curiosity with better weapons or armor pickups. I found little to no reward with 41 Hours: Prologue. The graphics do look good, but that doesn’t help the experience.
Broken Enemy AI
The enemies you fight in the prologue are basic soldiers, and two types of robotic machine gun drones. There really isn’t much of a variety. Sometimes a tiger or bear may jump out and get you, which caused more deaths than you would think. The second you fire your weapon, or the enemy faces your direction, get ready to eat a machine gun sandwich. The invisibility mechanic won’t hide you for long since it stops the moment you pull the trigger, which seems like a missed opportunity for some serious stealth combat. The only thing I could thing to do is hide behind a boulder or house, since the enemies are mainly hit-scan.
After many deaths, I decided to try to flank the enemy hoards off the beaten path from the woods, since there is so much of it. This did not help. Once you break a certain line towards each waypoint, enemies will simply respawn around you no matter your location. The trees even seem to cover the enemies more than you. Now you are taking shots and sifting through trees to find where you’re getting hit from. The game even tells you to stay on the path since that’s where the majority of the health and ammo reside as I said moments ago. So again, what’s the point of this huge level layout? I played 41 Hours: Prologue on the easiest difficulty setting and got my face melted.
I had to equip the silencer on my guns, solely to mute out obnoxiously loud barrel noises when firing my guns. When you play an FPS, the weapons should have a sense of weight to them. Crunchy sound effects should make it satisfying to pull the trigger, not cause you to turn the volume down. I love using the AWP in Counter Strike or the Flak Cannon in Unreal Tournament for those reasons. The only way to tell if my shots landed, are if a makeshift x appears on screen where you are aiming down your sights like when playing Call of Duty. Also, the drop-tuning rusty guitars in the Game Over music feels ripped straight from Borderlands. There are no Post-Apocalyptical Western themes in this game. The in-game battle music felt over dramatic and corny. I’m a big sound guy, and the overall audio didn’t impress.
Just Pick It Up
Ethan has powers of his own. Like Clara, he can temporarily turn invisible to hide and sneak by, as mentioned previously. The most notable, however, is his telekinesis. There are parts of the game where you must lift and stack up huge objects to access portals, and climb buildings. Half Life introduced this concept of picking interactive objects up back in 1998, and it was still done better then vs. now. This was easily the most infuriating part of my playthrough. You can’t turn objects around, only stack them in the direction they face. Things will never line up properly and your storage box staircase will topple down, wasting your time.
We are at an age in Video Games where the technology to do what you want with is pretty much there. Whether crafting a massive open world sandbox title or a 2D pixelated platformer, the tools are available. With that in mind, attempting to push the limits visually should not be the driving force of your game. If there are lingering flaws that inhibit the experience, the game will quickly be forgotten when something new comes out later, with better visuals. Borrowing mechanics from other releases to attempt to add variety is not a good cover up when those gimmicks aren’t fleshed out enough. Though nothing is completely broken, there are a lot of issues with 41 Hours: Prologue, and I don’t think the development team will be able to fix much with roughly a month left until it’s already delayed release date.